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The Vietnam Draft Lottery and Political Attitudes

- April 8, 2009

bq. In 1969, draft numbers randomly assigned to birth dates became important in determining which young men would be called up to fight in Vietnam. We exploit this natural experiment to examine how vulnerability to the draft influenced opinions about the Vietnam War, party identification, political ideology, and attitudes toward salient political figures and issues of the day. Data analyzed come from the Jennings-Niemi Panel Study of Political Socialization, which surveyed high school seniors from the Class of 1965 both before and after the national draft lottery was instituted. We demonstrate that males holding low lottery numbers expressed more negative views of the war in Vietnam, more liberal policy views and ideological identifications, more negative evaluations of Republican and conservative elites, and voted much more strongly for McGovern than did those whose high draft numbers protected them from the draft. Drafter number effects typically exceed those found for pre-adult party identification and are not mediated by military service or the acquisition higher education.

That is from a new working paper by Robert Erikson and Laura Stoker. Another interesting finding: when respondents were reinterviewed in 1982 and 1997, their draft lottery number was still significantly related to whether they thought the Vietnam War was a mistake.

The paper is here.